Period: Early/Mid Twentieth Century
Depth: 9 inches
Width: 9 inches
Height: 20 inches
The four-sided glass case housing a preserved kestrel (Falco tinnunculus), stood upon a barbed wired fence post, survives from the middle of the twentieth century in near perfect condition.
Orson the kestrel was born in a concentration camp and escaped after 23 years. He grew up in Camp 19, a brutal political avian prison believed to exist in the communist state. He is thought to be the only bird to be born and raised in the jail who has ever managed to flee and survive. He has revealed that fellow prisoners were executed by firing squad for “offences” such as hoarding a few kernels of corn and that the campmates were starved to make them repent.
He admitted that while the executions were frightening he saw them as a break from the monotony of labour and starvation. After escaping, he says he had to learn to feel, adding: “When I was in the camp I don’t remember crying so much. Even when my mother and my brother were executed, I didn’t shed too many tears.” His brother got to the fence first but was electrocuted as his wings clipped the upper wires. Orson only managed to escape himself by hiding on an owls back. He then stole and bribed his way into Wales and went to Newport where he sneaked into the embassy where he was granted asylum. He died of natural causes a happy bird in his Welsh home, and is preserved with some of very barbed wire from the now broken up concentration camp.
Orson had once said his freedom is haunted by thoughts of those still incarcerated. Now free, he can be admired for the brave hero he his.